Things to do as a family in Abu Dhabi

I recently received an email from my brother who has a colleague coming out to Abu Dhabi for a holiday asking for any ideas on things to do with kids in the city. Abu Dhabi is a massively family friendly city and there’s actually heaps going on all the time, but also especially over Christmas and in the winter while the weather is good. But rather than just send my ideas back in an email for just one family to benefit from, I thought I’d share my thoughts on things to do as a family in Abu Dhabi with all of you lovely lot too 🙂

If you’re looking for ideas on what to do with kids in the city either this Christmas or beyond, then please read on…

December / Christmas seasonal activities:

Let it Snow at Yas Marina
There’s a snow fight zone at Yas Marina until the 3rd January every day from 12pm to 8pm where kids can make snowballs and play penguin bowling!
Also until 20th December kids can look forward to Santa arriving in the Marina by boat and have their photos taken with the big man himself.
Little Frozen fans won’t want to miss out on the 19th and 20th December when they’ll be able to meet their favourite characters from the film from 4pm to 6pm, followed by the movie showing at 6pm.
All of these events are free to attend except the Snow Fight Zone which is Dhs30 per child for 15 minutes.

Santa at Yas Marina
Santa at Yas Marina. Photo credit: Yas Marina

Christmas time at The Galleria
I mentioned in my recent post about markets in Abu Dhabi that The Galleria is holding their first annual festive market this year, but did you also know that there’s also gingerbread decoration stations down there and a snow park where kids can make their very own Christmas snowman? Christmas wouldn’t be complete without an opportunity for the little ones to meet Santa, so luckily the Galleria has managed to pull some strings with the North Pole and get him to set up his grotto on their waterfront promenade for the festive period.
The festive market is taking place at The Galleria Waterfront Promenade, Al Maryah Island until January 5, 2015 from 4pm to 10pm on weekdays and 4pm to 12am on weekends.

Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village
As you’ll no doubt already know, the Volvo Ocean Race is also in town and the destination village on the Corniche Breakwater will remain open until 3rd January and is free to visit. There’s loads of stuff going on down there for all the family from regattas, sailing contests, stand-up paddle boarding, along with a family park area with a stay and play area for kids where they can get involved in arts and crafts, soft play and more for Dhs20 per hour. Abu Dhabi’s newest outdoor shop Adventure HQ from Dalma Mall is also down there with their Adventure Zone that includes a climbing wall, pump track and all their usual range of wheeled and water kit available to rent from bikes and skateboards to paddle boards and more. There’s even a surf simulator, kids pedal cars, a cultural and heritage zone and loads  more.
Open from 12pm to 9pm on weekdays and 11am to midnight on weekends. To find out more get down there or visit the website by clicking here.

Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village Pump Track
Volvo Ocean Race Destination Village Pump Track. Photo credit: VOR

DIY Ginger bread house
Get along to The Westin Abu Dhabi to get your very own DIY Gingerbread House kit that you can make together at home for Dhs99. Package includes everything you need to build your own Gingerbread House and to decorate it.

Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
All year round family favourites both have a host of events and activities taking place at the parks during December with a seasonal theme on top of all the usual water / theme park fun.
Activities at Yas Waterworld include gingerbread house decoration and family photo fun at snowmen photo booths. Book your tickets online and until 31st December you can also take advantage of their current four tickets for the price of three offer.
Winterfest activities at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi include an ice skating rink, Snow Globe dancers, photo opportunities with Bjorn the animatronic Polar Bear, a holiday Village filled with Italian Christmas treats and a festive themed kids play area amongst others.

Non-seasonal all year round activities:

Go Kayaking on the Mangroves
Noukhada run guided Mangrove kayaking tours for the whole family from age three and up. Kids aged between three and 10 years old will be seated with a parent in a double kayak. The tour lasts around an hour and a half to two hours and depending on whether you choose to go at high or low tide will mean whether you get to paddle through the tree systems or get to explore the wildlife on the mangrove shores.
Dhs150 per person, kids three to 10 in a double kayak Dhs110 with an adult. For more information see the Noukhada website.

Take a Desert Safari
One for newbies or visitors not to miss, this is the quintessential desert experience! Starting off with 4×4 dune bashing in the desert and the chance to try out sand boarding, back at the camp there’s also camel rides, henna tattoos and more all before a slap up barbecue meal in the desert along with a traditional belly dancing show. There are heaps of companies that do these in different locations and a quick google search will bring a bunch up that you can pick from. Alternatively, if you’re visiting and staying in a hotel they will no doubt be able to organise for you with their preferred provider.

Desert Safari
Desert Safari

Visit the Grand Mosque
A must see for anyone coming to the city and although it might sound a bit boring for kids – kids we’ve been with in the past have loved it for it’s grandeur, colours and general all round wow factor. It’s free to visit and to get the most out of it you can opt for a free guided tour – when there’s kids in the group these are often tailored to cater to the audience and depending on your guide include fun facts and pop quizzes throughout, but you can also just wander round on your own (outside of prayer times). Visit the SZGM website for further information.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Go to the Beach
The best public beach in the city is at Saadiyat without a doubt. Beautiful white sands stretching out for as far as the eye can see with amazing blue waters, it just can’t be beaten. The public beach is run by Bake and the entry fees of Dhs50 per adult on weekdays and Dhs75 on weekends ensure you have facilities, sun beds and umbrellas. Check out their website for more information.

Beautiful beaches
Beautiful beaches

Adventure HQ
For anyone who doesn’t know the city, then it might seem odd to recommend you take your kids to an outdoor adventure store in a mall, but honestly, it’s worth it. Inside Adventure HQ is Adventure Zone, an activity area with Boulder Wall, Skate Park, Cable Climb course and even a trampoline park. Enough to keep the young ‘uns busy for hours and burn off some steam. All staff at Adventure HQ are qualified and trained and supervision and safety equipment is provided. Adventure HQ is located at Dalma Mall, check the store website here for further details and prices.

Go out to eat
One of the best things about Abu Dhabi being so family friendly means that kids are welcome just about everywhere. Most places even in the highest end of restaurants in five star hotels won’t bat an eyelid if you choose to bring the rabble with you and will even happily provide high chairs and a special kids menu.

If you’re taking a trip out of the city to Al Ain then don’t miss:

Wadi Adventure
An adrenaline rush for water babies. Wadi Adventure is the site of the world’s longest man-made whitewater channels, the world’s largest surf pool, an aerial obstacle course, a family swimming pool, a family friendly low ropes area and more to keep the whole family of all ages entertained. Find all the prices and info on their website here.

Al Ain Zoo
I have to say I didn’t expect much from a zoo in this region but I was really impressed by what I found at Al Ain Zoo. It’s especially good if you can go when they’re open during the evenings as the animals are much more active during these cooler periods. There’s loads to see and do here and is well worth a visit. The zoo prides itself on its ongoing education in the community and also their conservation programmes. It’s the feeding of the Giraffes they’ve added since I last went that especially makes me want to return but there’s heaps more to see too from zoo babies, bird shows, keeper talks and more. You can find all the pricing, timing and general info on their website by clicking here.

What’s your favourite family activity to do in the city? Is there any I missed? I’m sure there’s loads more I haven’t included! I’d love to hear your favourites in the comments below.

For more all year round ideas and up to date listings on family and kids things to do in Abu Dhabi, do check out Time Out Abu Dhabi Kids monthly magazine, available to buy in the shops and also downloadable online through their app.

Let me know your thoughts and comments here!

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